This love story is passed in my family from one generation to the next. In my opinion, it’s proof that fate really exists because it brought my ancestors together when they hadn’t expected. A misunderstanding and epic fail turned into the happiest occurrence for this couple. Normally, they wouldn’t have met at all, but fate has a strange sense of humor. So, let me tell you the wedding story of my great grandparents Luke and Agaphia who got married in 1911.
Great granddad Luke was born in 1881, so he was 30 when married at last. I say “at last” because in Ukraine in the 19th – early 20th century, people usually got wed early, especially girls – at the age of 16-19. Young people didn’t have to build a career or graduate universities before marriage, their parents prepared a dowry for them, helped build a house, shared a field to work at, and so on. Of course, after the wedding, the couple needed to work hard to keep and grow their household.
Great grandma was 21 when they met (born 1889), which was already considered dangerously close to the spinster age. She hadn’t married earlier because she had left home to work for another family and helped her parents feed her siblings.
At the time, Luke dated another girl (had been for a few years already), they planned to get married and dreamed about life together. So, one day, Luke told his parents that he was ready to get wed, invited a matchmaker, as the tradition dictated, and the fiance’s procession went to the fiancee’s home to ask her parents for her hand in marriage. Everything was done the way it was supposed to be, according to Ukrainian engagement and wedding traditions.
But when they came to the girl’s house, it turned out she wasn’t home at the moment! Her parents couldn’t make this decision without asking her, so they turned the groom’s proposition away. It was traditional to present the unlucky potential groom with a pumpkin for everybody to see that a girl refused to marry him, and it was an awful shame for any man. People would laugh at him and other girls would think twice before agreeing to marry him.
Thereby, the matchmaker needed to figure out what to do with the pumpkin and fast)). The only option was to ask for the hand of another girl instead of returning home and giving it one more try with the one Luke dated. And the matchmaker remembered that in the neighborhood, there was a girl named Agaphia who had just returned from another village for vacation. The procession went to her house and asked her parents for her hand in marriage. Agaphia said Yes. Probably because, as we’ve mentioned, she didn’t want to be a spinster and there wasn’t a queue of wannabe husbands at her door.
Luke and Agaphia didn’t even know each other, not to mention dating. But they both agreed on this marriage because of the circumstances. Although after the wedding, they quickly fell for each other. Especially Luke. He was head over heels with his new wife and loved her until his last breath.
Agaphia had some health issues – when she had been a young girl, she often washed clothes in cold river water and her legs periodically hurt ever since. She even had a specific style of walking, a bit duck-like, but Luke always said that he fell in love with her because of her walking and easily recognized her by it. He also tried to do more chores so that she didn’t have to work as hard. When her legs hurt during the whole night and she couldn’t sleep, Agaphia sometimes overslept in the morning (there were no alarm clocks, obviously, in the village in the early 20th century). When she would wake up and realize that she didn’t feed the animals and let them out to the pasture in time, she would chastise Luke that he didn’t wake her up earlier only to find out he had done everything by himself so that she could sleep longer. Village romance! Like those bubble gum phrases, Love is – to do all the chores while she’s still asleep to let her rest longer.
Luke and Agaphia were very happy together. They were married for 45 years and had 4 kids – a daughter and 3 younger sons. And their family was rather wealthy and respected. He was a miller, owned a watermill, and she was a healer, knew a lot about various herbs and plants. I’m very proud of my ancestors and touched by their wedding story, so I wanted to share it with you.
Here’s a photo of Luke and Agaphia with their 2 oldest children, 1917. The 6-year-old girl is standing, the 4-year-old boy (yes, he’s wearing a dress, like many little boys did in the 1800s – early 1900s) is sitting on his father’s lap. By the way, this boy is my grandfather. Great granddad Luke is wearing his military uniform and holding his saber. Great grandma Agaphia is wearing Ukrainian traditional married women’s attire.
And in this pic, you can see young Agaphia before her marriage, the early 20th century. She’s probably with her brother or cousin. She’s wearing a festive Ukrainian national costume.